This is a guest contribution from Jonathan Goodman.
There are other people blogging about the same subject as you, maybe better or maybe worse—but, as you probably have figured out by now, content is no longer king; context is.
Getting repeat readers who become brand ambassadors for you is pertinent to the success of your blog. So is getting repeat customers. It allows you to focus on what you do best: make great art—writing material that people enjoy reading and writing material that will help thousands of people around the world.
All successful blogs are communities and if you want to turn your blog into something special, something that will grant you financial freedom, and something that will help countless people then you must create a community out of your blog.
There are a lot of great blog posts about creating communities, but this one is different. The 8 steps I describe below is the exact process I used to build the world’s biggest collaborative blog for personal trainers, in less than 2 years, with no connections and no technological acumen.
Whether you’re starting anew or you already have a blog you can apply these steps, in any order, to build your audience, network, and repeat readership.
Step 1 – The Idea
All good blogs are based on a powerful idea that fulfils or hits on a need. Perhaps there’s a knowledge gap in your industry or, in the case of the personal training industry, there was a lot of information but it was all boring text-book material.
The gap I filled was teaching personal trainers the soft side of training but adding in jokes, usually about how much I hate that stupid useless green bird in Angry Birds. Seriously, let’s talk about that bird for a minute. Anybody else hate that thing? He adds an element of difficulty into the game that I don’t appreciate. I just want to smash pigs and move onto the next level.
But I digress.
Build your community on a single powerful idea. Understanding the blogging medium requires a lighter and more approachable tone — don’t be afraid to approach your topic with humor and wit.
Most of all don’t ever hide your personality. People buy into what you do because of the 1% that makes you different, not the 99% that makes you the same.
I should also note that once your blog grows, it might grow out of your initial idea so you need to flexible about its evolution. An experts power doesn’t come from knowing, it comes from knowing where to find and that’s why step 2 is so important.
Step 2 – The Sea Lion System to Build Your Network
I’m reminded of a family trip I took to Alaska. We found ourselves watching a group of whales bubble feed — it was spectacular — but something grabbed my attention and it wasn’t the whales; it was the Sea Lions.
You must be the Sea Lion
In any industry there are existing influencers who I’m sure you can name off of the top of your head right now. These people have social media pages and blogs. Existing on those pages are what I call connectors.
When an industry influencer posts a status update or a new blog, there’s a flurry of activity. Instead of trying to get the influencers attention, be the Sea Lion and find the people who are avidly liking, commenting, and sharing the influencer’s material — there are your connectors.
Over a short period of time, you’ll notice the same names keep appearing. Likely they have blogs and even if they don’t they will probably be open to network. Read and comment on a blog post or two of theirs and send them an email saying hi. Or, if they don’t have a blog, send them a message saying that you would like to connect.
Step 3 – Implicit Understanding, Explicit Meaning
Choosing a name for your blog or community is an important step. Even if you blog in your basement at night, the name should make it sound like it’s bigger than you. You’re building a community here that others will want to be a part of.
In addition, you want to have the option to sell the blog later on. A community blog is valuable and it’s a nice option to have. JonsAwesomePersonalTrainerBlog.com isn’t going to be easy to sell but the Personal Trainer Development Center is.
Lastly, your blog name should be something that is intuitively meaningful for your audience. It should also be something that will make them feel like they look good by passing it on to colleagues, friends, or family members.
Step 4 – Contact potential contributors
Now the fun part starts.
There are 3 different types of contributors that you want for your community blog.
1. Camp Busters
In every industry there are established camps that you should be able to identify. There’s probably an influencer at the top and varying levels of followers underneath him or her. Ideally, you want to break into every camp that serves your industry. To do so, try to find somebody that’s well connected in that camp and is currently lower down in the pecking order.
2. Up and comers
In step 2 you identified your connectors. Many of these people will be up and coming bloggers. Have a read through their material and note which ones are good. In addition, look to contact the ones who are hustling the hardest and get them on board with your community.
3. Established authorities
There’s a Catch-22 here. You need readers to attract established authorities to write for you, but you can’t get readers without established authorities right?
Here’s one approach: When you sign up for my free content course, you also get to download my free Diamond in the Rough System Ebook. This is how to use Twitter to get the attention of the people behind the people.
When contacting authorities you probably can’t pay them but you can offer them value. Usually these people have years of archived high-quality material on their blogs. Sell them on your powerful idea in step 1 and ask them to come on board as a “coach” or “advisor” for your community. Assure them it is 0 work on their part.
Tell them that you want to go through their entire archive and will send them a list of all the material that you would like the opportunity to use. You will re-edit and re-format the material so that it’s different enough that Google doesn’t view it as duplicate material and post it to your blog attributing it to them as the sole author with links back to their site.
Some people may say no, but many will agree.
Having established authorities on your site does two things: It establishes credibility for other contributors and you gain the audience of the authority.
Step 5 – Planes, trains, and automobiles
As personal as social networks are (sometimes too personal) nothing can ever replace meeting, shaking hands, and having a conversation with somebody in real life. Look for more intimate industry events that leave time for networking. I’ve even been known to skip entire afternoons of talks to sit down and network with one person at a conference I was looking forward to meeting.
Step 6– Develop a course
What’s the biggest issue or misconception facing your industry?
To start, I suggest some brain mapping software (I use the MindNode App) or grabbing a note pad and writing it down the old fashioned way.
- Put your topic in the middle of page and write down everything you can think of surrounding the topic. Don’t consider whether or not you want to include it at this stage, just write it all down.
- Upon finishing, come back the next day with another blank piece of paper and copy the exact same formula.
- When you’ve finished this 2-4 times, take all of your brain maps and create a master map out of them eliminating all the obvious dumb stuff you wrote down and keeping the good stuff.
- Then grab some cue cards and write out each sub-topic on a cue card or in Scrivener (an awesome word processor for organising large projects like this). After you’ve organized the course on cue cards or in Scrivener, it’s a matter of filling in the blanks.
When you’ve finished writing each section, tie them all together.
Start the course with an introduction email saying hello and telling the person what to expect. At the beginning of each email refer back to the previous lesson for a line or two. At the end of each email, let the person know what they can expect for the next email.
Go to fiverr.com and get a cover created for your course and integrate with your email marketing software. Create a simple squeeze page for your course — this will be important in the next step.
Step 7 – Build up a fanpage for social proof
You’ve probably already created a fan page on Facebook, but now it’s time to get it cranking and, to do so, you’re going to get a brief lesson in Facebook advertising.
Create a Facebook status update with a link to your squeeze page for the course. Keep it short and include the following 3 things:
1. Have a punchy headline that grabs attention.
2. Give 3 points that are secrets or that you “reveal” in your course.
3. Tell the reader to click the link to grab their course right away and provide the link.
Then you need to target your Facebook ad.
Step 1: Identify your audience. Is it 25-30 year old females who workout and are interested in holistic fitness? Be as specific as you can.
Step 2: Identify any other pages on Facebook that specifically serve your audience. Be as precise as possible.
Step 3: Think about parallel industries that your lead may be interested in. For example, somebody interested in holistic fitness is probably interested in Lululemon clothing and Yoga. Identify the main pages here.
Step 4: For $10-$25 you can run an ad promoting your post to each of these pages individually, for at least 3 days. After creating your first ad, you can copy the ad and simply change the targeting. You should see the option in your control panel.
Step 5: Take stock of which pages gave you the best response rate in terms of click-throughs . Write down all pages that had at least a 0.3% click through rate.
Step 6: Run an ad to all of the pages that had a good response together and run that ad continuously for more money.
Bidding for clicks is a bit of a science. The better you target your ad, the less you’ll have to pay. Reason being, if you have a high converting ad then Facebook will show it to more people for cheaper.
If your ad isn’t converting well, you’ll have to pay more per click to get Facebook to show it to people. If you’re targeting a big audience or a big page, clicks will cost more than an audience in countries outside of North America interested in oddball stuff. Ideally, you want to pay no more than 25 cents a click.
This ad will both get people to like your Facebook page and add a slew of new subscribers into your email list.
Step 8 – Viral!
This is where my real interest lies.
Now that your Facebook ads have gotten a following on your page, you have an avid audience to spread your materials — so make them viral.
The easiest way to get status updates to spread throughout a niche industry audience is by following these steps:
- Write down any issues or misconceptions that face your industry. For example, in the fitness industry the fact that too much of the public still thinks that women shouldn’t lift weights is a sore spot.
- Note beside your topic, which side of the debate the majority of your audience sits on.
- Write a status update or upload a picture 4-6 times a day (you can schedule them) that articulates the majority of your communities views on the issues you’ve identified. Don’t be afraid to be one-sided and somewhat brash. Emotion drives sharing. People will share if they love you or hate you.
Step 8 – Post 1-2 times per week
Post 1-2 top quality blog posts on your webpage per week (or even less). You can write them or have contributors write them. Continue to spend the majority of your time growing the community through your email list via the course and through Facebook through ads and viral material.
Take in guest contributions on your own blog so that you can spend your time writing awesome material for other blogs in your niche creating link juice and getting traffic back to your site.
Rinse and Repeat.
It won’t happen overnight but when you plan your strategy and dedicate the time, you can turn your blog into a community.